BUCKHANNON — The Market Bistro is back.
And this time, the North Kanawha Street café is offering a slew of family-friendly favorites in addition to the traditional fare that original owners Mike and Annie Alborano made so popular.
New co-owners and Buckhannon residents Bill and Angie Dowling purchased the restaurant from the Alboranos in late January and officially opened with a revised menu on Monday, March 13. Already on Monday, the bistro was buzzing with a late lunch hour rush around 2 p.m.
“We kept about 80 percent of Mike’s menu,” Bill Dowling said, taking a break from cooking. That means that patron favorites for which the bistro was famous — like the Hot Italian, Donna’s Favorite and the Bistro Club — are still being served. But the Dowlings knew they wanted to attract families too, so they added some all-American items like loaded fries with cheese and bacon, fried pickles and cheese sticks, as well as Bill’s Famous Onion Burger, a BLT, chicken strips and a kids’ menu.
“Mike (Alborano) didn’t fry anything, but I did a lot of research, and based on some of the feedback I got, people were saying that they wanted to go there, but they couldn’t take their kids there because their kids thought the food was weird,” Bill Dowling said.
Angie Dowling said she can sympathize. She’s a self-described picky eater and knew the menu had to incorporate things that she would like to eat. So in addition to mixing in some all-American favorites, the Dowlings added a kids’ menu that includes a junior all-American burger, grilled cheese, chicken strips and a hot dog.
Oh, and they’ve added a full pizza menu, featuring pies topped with ham and pineapple, pulled pork and sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese.
But one principle the Alboranos abided by which the Dowlings are keeping alive is the emphasis on making all things fresh — from scratch.
“All of our breads are fresh made, the French fries are straight from the potato and the desserts are all made from scratch,” Bill Dowling said. “People are already raving about the graham cracker pie.”
Even the chocolate milk is made from scratch.
“When you order chocolate milk here, we don’t use any kind of powder,” Bill Dowling said. “We literally heat milk up on the stove and put real chocolate in it and melt it.”
Bill Dowling describes himself as the chef, saying his wife, Angie, is “the baker.” Bill Dowling previously worked as a manager at Long John Silver’s and was also employed by Sam’s Pizza. He estimates he has about 15 years of experience in the food service industry under his belt. That’s why when the Market Bistro came up for sale, the Dowlings knew they had to jump on the chance.
“It was just one of those things that we couldn’t pass up when the opportunity came up,” Bill Dowling said. “I knew from all the research that I’d done that it was something people missed that they couldn’t get anywhere else.”
So they took a big risk — they took a home equity line of credit out on their Smithfield Street house. And they funneled all the money they had saved for a vacation to London into buying the Market Bistro.
“It’s a huge risk, when you risk your house,” Bill Dowling said. “We’re putting everything we’ve got into this.”
But one thing that eases his mind is that Bill Dowling has got one very successful local businessman on his side who’s helping him through the ins and outs of running a business — Sam Nolte, owner of Sam’s Pizza in Tennerton. He said he learned a great deal from Nolte when he worked at the pizza place and that Nolte has volunteered to help the Dowlings draft a business plan on how to do taxes.
“A lot of times, new businesses fail because they aren’t able to pay their taxes, but Sam’s helping us with that,” Bill Dowling said. “He also has one of the lowest turnover rates and taught me a lot about that. I believe that if you’re good to people that work for you, they’ll work 110 percent better for you and treat your guests well.”
The Dowlings said they welcome community input and encourage their patrons to visit their Facebook page. One idea they’re toying with is serving a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
“It would just be buffet-style,” Bill Dowling said. “What is on the buffet would be all we would offer.”
The restaurant will be offering on-foot delivery downtown, stretching from the Upshur County Courthouse to Buckhannon City Hall, as well as to side-street businesses and apartments. However, deliveries won’t be available after dark for safety reasons. The Market Bistro offers a 10 percent discount to military personnel, emergency personnel and senior citizens 55 and older.
Located at 18 N. Kanawha St., the Market Bistro is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For deliveries or more information about menu offerings, give them a call at 304-439-3053.